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Striking Gold | Understanding JTE membership objectives

  Kyle Kipple             OA Today

You're viewing an article from the Order of the Arrow's news archives that is over one year old. Please note that this content is presented for reference purposes only. Some links may no longer function and the information below may have been superseded by a more recent policy update. For up-to-date information, please visit

Welcome to the second article in the Striking Gold series, where we break down the Journey to Excellence program and how you can use its objectives and standards to help improve your lodge and chapter. In this edition, we will talk about the membership objectives and their importance to the success of our organization.

Recognizing the challenges of various lodges, the JTE membership criteria aims to direct the attention of lodge leadership towards the most important factors aimed at growing numbers. The membership objectives give lodges the opportunity to earn up to 1500 points, the most of any other JTE category. Journey to Excellence measures performance on four main membership categories and rewards points as follows:

JTE Membership Criteria
Objective Description Bronze level Silver level Gold level
Membership Impact Experience positive growth in youth membership over the previous year. Grow youth membership by at least 1 (250 points) Grow youth membership by at least 1% (300 points) Grow youth membership by at least 5.5% (450 points)
Membership Retention Improve the retention rate of youth lodge members Achieve 56% retention of youth members (75 points) Achieve 63% retention of youth members (150 points) Achieve 72.5% retention of youth members (300 points)
Unit Elections Conduct unit elections in all troops and teams within the council Complete unit elections in 39% of troops/teams (100 points) Complete unit elections in 64% of troops/teams (200 points) Complete unit elections in 99% of troops/teams (450 points)
Ordeal Completion Induct youth Ordeal candidates Induct at least 60.9% of youth Ordeal candidates (75 points) Induct at least 73.6% of youth Ordeal candidates (150 points) Induct 100% of youth Ordeal members (300 points)

Membership Impact

Membership impact is the first objective for a reason. What is your lodge doing to bring new Arrowmen into the program and keep them interested in Scouting? Traditionally, annual membership is calculated by the total dues-paid members when the lodge files their recharter paperwork at the end of the year. To calculate youth membership growth percentage, take your end-of-year youth membership number, subtract last year’s end-of-year youth membership and divide that number by last year’s end-of-year youth membership number. For example, a lodge that ended last year with 550 youth membership, but ended this year with 600 youth members would experience a youth membership growth percentage of 9.1% ((600-550)/550). It is not mandatory to experience positive growth. Even if a lodge did not increase membership, it may still qualify for a JTE award.

What are some ways your lodge can increase membership? Some proven ideas include good communication between members using publications, emails, or social media, posting dues due dates, creating new and innovative programs, and expanding how dues can be paid.

Membership Retention

After you have increased your lodge membership, you must keep them active and coming to events. The membership retention criterion calculates the percentage of current, active OA members returning the following year and continue their active membership. Lodges that find new ways to improve their annual program are rewarded and typically score well.

There are two main factors that make up membership retention:

  1. Members who had been active in the past may become inactive and no longer participate in lodge events or pay lodge dues
  2. Getting brand new Ordeal members active and interested in the lodge program

Keeping current membership engaged in the program, as well as making sure events are fun and exciting, are great ways to help improve a lodge’s youth membership retention. It is the lodge’s responsibility to “activate” new Ordeal members in the lodge program. Different programs, such as NIMAT or special new Ordeal luncheons, all help “activate” the new Arrowmen into the OA.

Youth membership retention is calculated by subtracting the lodge’s total Ordeal inductions from the end-of year membership, all divided by the previous year’s end-of-year membership. For example, if a lodge had 490 youth members in 2017, 520 youth members in 2018, and 185 total youth inductions for the year, the youth membership retention would be 68.4%, earning JTE silver (150 point) for this criterion.

Consider starting events such as cracker barrels, “brotherhood bashes,” activity nights during events, or even using themes. One of our key principles is brotherhood and promoting it at events will help create friendships within the lodge - helping people come back to events.

Unit Elections

One of the easiest ways to increase lodge membership is to complete a unit election in every unit in the council. Remember the purpose of the Order of the Arrow: to recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. In 2017, 50% of units did not request a unit election (that is over 20,000 units)! Every eligible Scout should be given an opportunity to be elected into the OA. Providing unit elections also provides an opportunity to show the troop that the OA exists and can help the troop. There are endless opportunities for adventure and leadership within Scouting – let the OA be the medium to spread the message.

According to the Journey to Excellence performance points rubric, all troops and teams must have been contacted and given the opportunity to request an election. If a unit has no eligible Scouts, that shall count as a completed election. Even if a unit has no eligible Scouts, it is a good idea to conduct a unit visitation and work with troop leadership to see if the OA can lead a certain activity or program during the unit meeting. Unit election teams should contain trained youth Arrowmen from different units than the one receiving the election. Always wear a sharp field uniform with the OA sash!

Very few lodges will be able to conduct an OA election in every unit in the council. It is important to maintain contact with these units and to help them understand the OA can serve the unit in more ways than strictly providing a unit election. What can you do in your lodge to better serve your units?

For more information on conducting a unit election, consult the Guide to Inductions.

Ordeal Completion

After you have successfully completed several OA elections in your council – what’s next? Encouraging newly inducted candidates to complete their Ordeal induction is critical. In 2017, 28% of youth Scouts did not complete their Ordeal – that equates to 10,667 youth “no shows.” That is almost as much as the number of youth delegates that attended the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Conference!

The youth Ordeal completion percentage, also known as youth induction rate, is calculated by taking the total number of youth candidates successfully inducted and dividing it by the total number of elected youth candidates. It measures the percentage of youth Scouts elected to the OA who attend the Ordeal.

The more opportunities your lodge offers for a candidate to complete his induction, the higher your completion percentage will likely be. Communication with candidates is key. Have the troop representative in the unit encourage candidates to attend an induction weekend or send emails to candidates informing them of induction weekends. Conducting a “call out” ceremony has proven successful for many lodges, either at summer camp or district camporees.

One of the biggest takeaways with the 2018 JTE performance points is the emphasis on youth membership and youth Ordeal completion. Criteria noted as "youth" should be calculated to include all lodge members under 21 as of December 31, 2017. Be sure to read the description of each objective to ensure you are forming appropriate and suitable goals for you and your lodge.

Researching best practices from other lodges is a great way to get your lodge moving in the right direction. Brainstorming with lodge leadership, attending trainings at NOAC or your section conclave, and consulting with former lodge leaders will help your lodge grow and increase performance on Journey to Excellence.

Our next article in the JTE series will examine the program objectives and how you can increase attendance at your lodge’s events. Missed an article in the series? Click the link below to get caught up!

Striking Gold: Series on Journey to Excellence

Article 1: What is JTE?

Journey to Excellence resources:

National JTE Website

Journey to Excellence Guide (PDF)

2018 OA Lodge Performance Recognition Program (PDF)

2017 OA Lodge Performance Recognition Program (PDF)

2017 Chapter Journey to Excellence (Excel)